Local firms profit from Danish loss

For many regional dairy producers, the boycott of Danish goods has led to a surge in business.

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By  Roger Field Published  April 5, 2006

While many Danish companies in the Middle East are counting the cost of a consumer boycott of their goods, many homegrown producers of dairy products in the region are experiencing an unprecedented boom in sales. Seclam Food Processing, an Egyptian producer of foods including cheese and juices, is just one company that has been picking up business lost by its Danish counterparts.The company, which produces the Labanita dairy brand, has experienced sales increases of 300% on its feta cheese range alone. “We launched our feta cheese and cream cheese at the Gulfood exhibition,” said Alaa El Wakil, international sales manager at Monsour Manufacturing & Distribution Co, the owner of Seclam. “We found an opportunity with the Danish boycott. We used to have good quality products but with the Danish products having a huge market share – I believe it’s about 70% for feta cheese – we didn’t have any chance to enter the market.” Seclam, which also produces dairy products for private label processed cheeses in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Yemen and Lebanon, expects to see growth of its feta cheese continue. “We’re still negotiating other contracts,” El Wakil said. “I’m expecting a huge surge in the business. It wouldn’t take effect immediately of course but we’ve been building confidence, we’ve done promotions for the feta cheese.” El Wakil added that during Gulfood, Seclam offered customers free delivery for containers of its feta cheese in the Middle East. This was partly a bid to encourage potential customers who were sceptical of such products being produced in Egypt. “This is important because most companies would be sceptical to buy from Egypt or try different brands so I’m just trying to give them confidence,” he said. Seclam and other Egyptian food producers are also benefiting from a reduction in European food subsidies, which gave many dairy products from the region an unfair advantage over their Middle Eastern and African counterparts. “Three years ago with the subsidies in Europe being taken away bit by bit, our triangular portion cheese started to grow in Egypt and we started to sell to all the Gulf and Africa. What we used to sell in a year back in 2002, we now sell in a month.” “Nowadays I don’t believe anybody is buying from Europe any more. Most of the Saudi companies that used to buy from Austria and Denmark have now moved to Egypt.”

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